One of my favorite parts about living in Austria is how my knowledge of the German language is continually challenged by different Austrian dialects and slang terms—especially while teaching English to Viennese Gymnasium students. I feel like many German-speaking internationals in Austria have a similar experience of “learning by doing” once they arrive, as some of us learn strictly Hochdeutsch in school or at university. Instead of viewing this challenge as stressful or burdensome, I love to see it as an opportunity to make me a more well-rounded communicator and “impostor Austrian.” Sure, there have been moments of frustration along the way, but I believe that this is all just part of the journey. Each new experience brings me further along this path, and I’m thankful for everyone who helps me along the way (a huge shout-out to FLTA alums and my dear friends Matthias Milchrahm and Sebastian Braunsberger!).
Even when we learn a language fluently, we're often confronted with unexpected challenges when speaking the language abroad—particularly when the variation of the language differs from what we've learned. We asked 2019–20 Austrian foreign language teaching assistant (FLTA) Julia Höfferer and 2020–21 US teaching assistant (USTA) to discuss their experience with language in each other's home country. Additionally, 2020–21 USTAs Kaitlin Young and John Howard share their thoughts on learning Austrian dialects.